Wind’s visible costs
An article posted February 10, 2020 highlighted how wind generation, on its own, represented a cost of $12.760 billion over the ten years from 2010 to 2019 to Ontario ratepayers. Industrial wind turbines (IWT) had delivered 83.3 TWh and curtailed 10.5 TWh over that time. The combined cost of the generation and curtailment represented an average delivered cost per kWh of 15.32 cents without factoring in costs of gas plants being at the ready when the wind wasn’t blowing or spilling clean hydro.
Over the same ten years, exports of surplus power to our neighbours cost ratepayers about $12.5 billion dollars. Wind’s habit of generating power in the middle of the night and spring and fall when demand is low drives down the market price; HOEP (Hourly Ontario Energy Price), resulting in export sales at prices well below contracted rates. This results in ratepayers having to pay the difference.
Last weekend (February 22nd and 23rd) was no exception. The wind was blowing for the two days but Ontario Demand was low averaging 341,800 MWh. IWT however, were generating power we didn’t need with grid accepted wind at 148,175 MWh and 14,900 MWh curtailed. The cost of both, was $24 million or 16.2 cents/kWh. IESO was busy exporting surplus power of 141,648 MWh or 96% of grid accepted wind. On top of that we were probably spilling water (and paying for it) at the same time.
The question the foregoing elicits is; how much were we paid for those exports? Exports sold February 22nd were at the average price of $1.99/MWh and $1.64/MWh on the 23rd so total revenue earned was a miserly $239 thousand versus a cost to ratepayers and taxpayers of the province of over $24 million just for what the IWT delivered. Our neighbours must love us!
Winds hidden costs
While the foregoing confirms IWT have the habit of being unreliable and intermittent and require backup from gas plants they also have other bad habits. One example is their killing of birds. The Audubon Society has suggested it is anywhere from 140,000 to 328,000 annually. They also kill bats in large numbers. Bird Studies Canada in 2016 estimated the kill rate in Ontario was 18.5 kills per turbine (over 50,000 annually). Many killed are on the endangered list! Additionally, tourism areas may also be negatively affected by IWT as noted in a poll in Scotland by the “John Muir Trust (JMT) found that 55% of respondents were “less likely” to venture into areas of the countryside industrialised by giant turbines”.
A recent report from Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) raises many other negative issues related to IWT! The report is a synopsis of complaints about IWT submitted by rural residents of Ontario living within close proximity of IWT. Those complaints were submitted to the MOECC (now the MOECP. The report titled: “Response to Wind Turbine Noise Complaints” analyzed 674 complaints made during 2017. The shocking issue revealed is: “Only nine of the 674 complaints, or 1.3% of total records, indicated that there was a field response.” What that suggests is the MOECP’s field offices are either not equipped to deal with complaints or believe the IWT contracted parties will somehow resolve them. In excess of 5,200 complaints have been logged by WCO since IWT first started to appear in the province and most of them were related to audible and inaudible (infrasound) noise levels. Other complaints have been associated with aquifer (water) contamination, shadow flicker, ice throws, etc.
Approximately 15% of the population will experience negative health effects from the proximity of IWT; a similar percentage to those who suffer from motion sickness. The effects of audible and infrasound noise will produce; nausea, headaches, anxiety, ringing ears, feeling of exhaustion, etc. Those individuals will naturally contact their doctors or other health care professionals for treatment adding to the cost of Ontario’s health care system. Those costs are not attributed to the cause, which are the IWT!
Other outcomes where IWT add (hidden) costs is in respect to property values as they are driven lower. Many studies have confirmed values drop and an Ontario Superior Court ruling suggested the drop was from 22% to 55%. The drop in values affects the realty tax base in municipalities hosting IWT and could result in lost services due to declining revenue or a substantial increase in realty taxes.
Let’s summarize the visible and invisible costs of IWT:
- Increased electricity costs due to the need for duplicate power sources such as gas plants.
- Increased surplus power which must be curtailed or sold for pennies on the dollar.
- Increased costs due to IWT inability to generate power when actually needed.
- Increased surplus power from IWT often means other clean sources must either spill (hydro) or steam off (nuclear) power which adds costs to our electricity bills.
- IWT kill birds and bats, many of whom are “species at risk” meaning insects, damaging to crops, are not eaten and farmers must spray their crops with insecticides adding costs to produce.
- IWT may affect tourism areas driving away tourists and thereby affect income to those regions.
- IWT cause various health problems requiring our health system to respond to individuals affected, thereby adding to health care costs.
- IWT cause property values to fall affecting the realty tax base where they operate and the value of the property should the occupants try to sell after the installation of those IWT has occurred.
- IWT lifespan is relatively short (20 years at most) compared to traditional sources of electricity generation and when unable to perform, create costs of remediation and disposal of recyclable and non-recyclable materials they consumed when built and erected.
While CanWEA will brag about the fact that the “fuel” powering IWT is free they ignore all of the other costs. Is it any wonder, even though electricity from a wind turbine was first created by Sir James Blyth in 1887, it failed to have an influence on the “electrification” of either the UK or anywhere else in the world. Until the UNIPCC forecast their purported concern about “global warming”, IWT were generally found only in very remote locations. The technology is 133 years old but the “climate emergency” advocates think it’s still relevant!
My forecast is IWT will never, ever, fully replace fossil fuels due to their costs, unreliability, the harm they cause to humans and to birds, bats and turtles! This old technology should be disregarded in the effort to reduce greenhouse gases.